Sunday, February 21, 2010

Messy Hair

My history with hair goes back a long time. About 38 years, give or take.

My hair biography is pretty conservative. As a kid, my mom would take me to the one-size-fits-all barber and I'd get the basic bowl cut.

One time, in about 5th grade, I asked if the barber if he could do something fancy, like give me a part, and he said, "That's styling. We don't do that." So I remained a bowl-cut dork for a few more years.

At some point I started parting it down the middle on my own. In junior high I let it grow out really long. It was not a great look for me, and I remember the popular kid on the school bus yelling at me in front of everyone else to get a haircut. I was just happy that the popular kids noticed me.

In high school, my whole life revolved around wrestling, so I had a really short wrestler's haircut. It made me look tougher in a singlet.

In college I went through a phase where I just brushed my hair straight back. I think I was going for this look:

But I didn't use any gel, so it was much puffier than that. Maybe like this?

That's about the size of the glasses I wore back then, anyway. This brush-backed poofy look was featured in the picture that accompanied my humor column in the college newspaper. Ironically, the first column I wrote for publication was about hair. I wrote about how weird it is that we use dead cells growing out of head-- essentially waste from our bodies-- to attract mates. My anthropology professor liked it so much he read parts of it out loud to the class.

Sometime around the mid-90's I settled on a more traditional style. Parted on the side, combed over. I would get it cut really short on the sides and back, with just enough on top to lay down, then just let it grow out for a few months. Repeat cycle. This style has stayed with me through a decade and a half.

In general it was fine, if not spectacular.

But sometimes, when I went too long without a cut, it would do interesting things, like curl or bunch.

Last fall I decided it was time for a change. I don't know why. So I started looking at other guys' heads and trying to decide what kind of style I would like. Or what kind of style I could at least get away with. I noticed that there are a lot of men out there with hairlines similar to mine.

I did a Google images search, and came up with two samples that I liked. Short and simple, with hairlines that approximately resemble mine. Jude Law and Giovanni Ribisi:

I printed out these two images and took them to my $11 barber shop. They've always done a decent job before, and I never have to make appointments, which eases my fear of commitment.

"Make me beautiful!" I told the grizzled barber as I handed him the printout of the pictures. Okay, I didn't say that, but we had an understanding. He did his thing. I knew it would take some getting used to, so I didn't flinch when I saw myself in the mirror at the barber's. I rushed home and examined it more closely in private. My first reaction was, Omygod, what have I done?

I gave it a few days, but I finally had to admit the awful truth: I don't look anything like Giovanni Ribisi! And Jude Law? Fuggedaboudit!

Once it started to grow out, and I got more used to it, it didn't look quite so bad. The biggest adjustment was having the right side of my forehead exposed, since that had always been covered up by my comb-over.

About the same time I got the cut, I let my sideburns grow out, which is kinda fun.

Still, as the hair grew out, I agonized about what to do next. Should I continue with my new cut or try something else? In the meantime, it was winter so I wore hats.

The problem with hats is that eventually you have to take them off, and that can make for some terrible hat head.

I hate how in the winter I often have to choose between comfort or style. Freeze or look decent?

So my new cut has been growing out for several months now and I'm trying to figure out what my next move is. Eventually I'm going to have to get it cut again. The good thing about it is that I never use a comb or a brush on it. I just use my hands to flatten it down after I get out of the shower. It gives me a casual messy hair look, which I kinda like.

I've contemplated doing something daring and unprecedented. Going to an actual styling salon and paying more than $11 for their opinion. Shoving my head in their face and saying, "What can you do with this?"

I'm looking for a style that:
  • is low maintenance
  • doesn't cost much
  • looks good-- or at least doesn't embarrass me and my loved ones
  • can go a long time between cuts
  • is resistant to hat head
How about it, science?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I've written before about how email addresses can get parsed into interesting combinations. (Seth Lutman gets turned into, for example.)

Someone sent me jokey email today with the same concept. URLs that do the same thing. To wit:

These are all "real" sites, according to the email. And they're very funny, but I have to believe that they're not all coincidences. The Pen Island site, for example, has large text that says, "Your Pen Is/ Our Business." The space between "Pen" and "Is" is very small, and the rest of the motto is on a second line, making it look like "Your PenIs/ Our Business." It's clear what they're trying to do. They claim to sell pens, but I even wonder if it's a real site or just a fun hoax.

My second favorite, powergenitalia, is supposed to be an Italian power company. But the site is under construction, so it may just be a joke. Yes, Virginia, sometimes people put hoax sites on the interwebs!

At any rate, these URLs had me literally LOLing at my desk.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Evolution of Marriage

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix.
-- Virginia judge who refused to uphold a D.C. marriage between a white man and a black woman, 1958.

Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple in question, were banished from their home state and risked getting arrested if they ever returned. To, you know, try to see their family.

Eventually the ACLU took up their case, which in 1967 made it to the Supreme Court. The Court struck down the law against interracial marriage, which at the time was still active in sixteen states.

The book where I read about this is Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage. Gilbert goes on to explain:

At the time, I must also mention, a poll showed that 70 percent of Americans vehemently opposed this ruling. Let me repeat that: In recent American history, seven out of ten Americans still believed that it should be a criminal offense for people of different races to marry each other. But the courts were morally ahead of the general population on this matter... life went on, and everyone got used to the new reality, and the institution of marriage did not collapse for having had its boundaries adjusted just that tiny bit wider...

You see where I'm heading with this, right?

Or rather, you see where history is heading with this?

Gilbert brings up the issue of same-sex marriage, and quotes some right wing homophobe who brings up the lame argument that supporters of gay marriage want to change the definition of marriage. She responds:

The problem with that argument, though, is that the only thing marriage has ever done, historically and definitionally speaking, is to change. Marriage in the Western world changes with every century, adjusting itself constantly around new social standards and new notions of fairness. The Silly Putty-like malleability of the institution, in fact, is the only reason we still have the thing at all. Very few people... would accept marriage on its thirteenth-century terms. Marriage survives, in other words, precisely because it evolves.

For example, the concept of marrying for love would be completely alien to most humans in history. That one detail has changed the meaning of the institution way more than gay marriage ever possibly could. Gilbert elaborates by talking about her relationship to her fiance:

I do not need this man in almost any of the ways that women have needed men over the centuries. I do not need him to protect me physically, because I live in one of the safest societies on earth. I do not need him to provide for me financially, because I have always been the winner of my own bread. I do not need him to extend my circle of kinship, because I have a rich community of friends and neighbors and family all on my own. I do not need him to give me the critical social status of "married woman," because my culture offers respect to unmarried women. I do not need him to father my children, because I have chosen not to become a mother...

I need him only because I happen to adore him, because his company brings me gladness and comfort, and because, as a friend's grandfather once put it, "Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone."

Times change. Today's 70 percent becomes tomorrow's fringe views. All the people who currently oppose gay marriage will, in future generations, be looked at the same way that we now look at the general population who were against interracial marriage in the 60's.